Hey, it’s Bullying Awareness Week. If there’s one thing I hate more than garage moles, it’s bullies. Seriously though, this is an issue very close to my heart. Every year our young people are taking their lives or other young lives because of bullying. Every day a woman is beaten into submission by a bully, every hour a child is irrevocably damaged as a result of a bully’s abuse, every second someone, somewhere is the victim of another person; a bully who feels that person isn’t worth the dirt on their shoes. A person who feels bigger, better, more important when they inflict pain on another, when they force them to their knees.
Violence, abuse, hate; a cancer in our society that for far too long we’ve been content to turn from, to ignore becaue ‘it’s not our problem’. Guess what folks. It IS your problem, and my problem, and their problem. For every instance of abuse you ignore, for every bruise or hurtful remark you pretend you don’t see or hear, there’s a chlid watching, learning…
“Bullying wasn’t like this when I was young.”
“When I went to school, kids weren’t so nasty.”
“What’s wrong with kids today?”
Well, what did you think would happen? How long do you think a problem can be ignored before it festers and grows into what we see in our schools today? Bullying is learned. Violence is learned. Each time it’s passed to a new generation it mutates into something uglier, more powerful, until it seems almost unfathomable the amount of hate and anger stuffed inside of one small person.
For this week, and for every day of your life after this, I ask that you stand up to all forms of bullying. To that man who called his wife a fucking retard, to that kid who shoved another on the ground, to that daughter who leaves her aging mother to rot in her own urine, to that parent who grabs her child by the hair and calls her stupid or worthless; Speak Up. Tell someone. Even if you aren’t sure, usually our instincts are right. Tell someone. Don’t assume it’s not your problem. It is. It will be. How would you feel if your cries went unanswered? How would you feel if it was your child terrified to walk home from school? Terrified to even go to school. How would you like it if your sister was battered and bruised? How about your child sexually exploited by some sick grown up who should know better? What if your child was the tormenter?
This is, as I said, an issue I feel very strongly about. My oldest daughter was bullied relentlessly for three years. True, her torment was probably minor compared to many. But she cried daily, refused to go to school, hated herself and her life. She wouldn’t leave the house, couldn’t even go on the computer. I made calls, I ranted, raged, I spoke up. Still, three years? It shouldn’t have taken me three years to see results. The final straw, a teacher. Someone who should have known better. A teacher targeted her and finally, the school took notice. Disgusting.
My youngest daughter, a much different personality, strong, outspoken, bossy even, was bullied this year. It doesn’t matter how independent or confident your child is, one incident can shatter their self esteem. Thankfully, it didn’t take so long to deal with her bully. Good thing she has a mother with a big mouth, she has a best friend whose mother also has a big mouth and who won’t stand for any sort of bullying.
I wasn’t bullied at school but my childhood was full of violence and abuse. No one spoke up. No one offered help. Everyone knew. No one said a word. They had tons to say in criticism of my parents and their misery. But NOT. ONE. PERSON. HELPED. I could have been a much different person if not for my parents’ insistence that I never allow myself to be a doormat. They gave me a voice and broke the cycle. Many aren’t so lucky. Will you give someone a voice?
I wrote a short story for submission to an anthology that was cancelled earlier this year. It was inspired by what my oldest daughter was going through. It’s rather tongue-in-cheek in its ending, but the message is what’s important. How much do they have to take before we as a society say “Enough”?
By Renee Miller
The taunts followed Anna down the halls of Stoneham High School. Head down, she moved as fast as her trembling legs would allow and prayed that she’d make it to Miss Davies’ office without incident.
Something hit her back. Laughter. Anna’s face warmed in humiliation. Whatever hit her felt cold and wet. The moisture seeped through her t-shirt and the voice in her head—which sounded much like her mother’s—told her to turn around. Stand up for herself. But Anna didn’t stop, although rage burned in her belly, its acrid smoke drifting up to sting her throat. Her mother promised if it didn’t stop, they’d discuss home schooling. Anna had lasted a month since that promise and she couldn’t do it anymore.
Her mother had called the principal when Anna finally confided in her about the bullying. The principal pretended to be shocked despite Anna’s repeated complaints over the past two years. “The rules here at Stoneham are clear. We are a zero tolerance school and these are good kids. Are you sure that Anna isn’t a little too sensitive?”
Anna’s mouth curved into a rare smile as she remembered the profanity-ridden tirade her mother had rained upon the principal. Anna’s mother didn’t take shit from anyone. Anna wished she could be the same, but two wrongs did not make a right, even if the second wrong would make her feel better.
Someone pulled at Anna’s hair and she stumbled, dropping her math book and pencil box. They clattered against the wall before hitting the ceramic tiled floor. The box cracked and spilled its contents at Anna’s feet. She knelt to pick it up but didn’t turn.
“What’s the matter? You too good to talk to me now?” Carrie.
“No. I have to see Miss Davies. I’m late.”
“You’re such a weirdo. That’s why no one talks to you. What do you write about in those stupid notebooks? Is it true you like girls?”
Anna turned to stare up at her ex best friend. They’d done everything together until seventh grade, when Carrie suddenly started calling Anna names and pulling vicious pranks. Carrie was on the chubby side, her hair was greasy and her face slightly bulldoggish. Anna didn’t understand why the other kids liked Carrie and not her. Her mother said it was because they were afraid of Carrie’s vile tongue. She said that no one enjoyed being a target so Carrie made sure to strike first.
Sighing, Anna resumed picking up the contents of her case, not sure where she could put all of it now that the box was broken. She would not dignify Carrie’s stupid question with an answer. Carrie and the others called Anna gay because she never bothered with boys. Anna tried to tell Carrie it wasn’t that she didn’t like boys, or that she preferred girls, she just wasn’t interested in that stuff at all.
“Did you like sleeping over at my house? I bet you did. Fucking lesbo.” Carrie’s words elicited a few chuckles and Anna felt her rage boil over.
Her hand closed around her compass. Its point pierced the tender skin between her thumb and her index finger. She winced.
“Probably fucks her mother.”
She stood and spun around. Carrie’s grinning face, fat cheeks folding and wrinkling around her eyes, mocked Anna.
“What did you say?” Anna demanded.
“I said you probably fuck your mother. You’re certainly always up her ass.”
“Take it back.”
Anna advanced, clutching the compass in her fist. Fury flamed inside her, casting a red haze over everything. She heard taunts from the other kids. Hit her. Mother-fucker. But she ignored them. “Take. It. Back.”
“No. I bet you and your mama do each other every night. That’s why you’re so weird. You’ll never have any friends. You’re a mother-fucking loser.
“One child is expelled, another in hospital after a brutal attack on Friday afternoon. Sources say the attacker, a thirteen year old girl at Stoneham High School, endured years of bullying by the victim before losing control and attacking the other girl with a compass. School Officials refused to comment, but several students claim that the attacker was a loner and ‘kind of weird’. More at six.”
Anna raised the remote, muting the news anchor’s voice and looked at her mother. “Sorry.”
“Don’t be. She had it coming. How much is one person supposed to take?”
Will you speak up?